I got up early this morning and headed to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area in Mamakating, NY. The Bashakill is over 3000 acres, has the largest freshwater wetland in southeastern New York and is an an area designated as a Bird Conservation Area. In addition to the vast array of birds, the land includes a chestnut oak forest, fields, ponds, marshes and swamps.
I arrived at roughly 9:15 and was expecting to meet up with my friends Justin and John. Both wound up running late as they made other stops before heading down, so I just goofed off and took in the beauty of the area while I waited. Once they both arrived we set off on our journey to explore the territory.
Our first stop was down a dirt road and through some fields where we saw many songbirds in the distance. We got out and hiked a short way on the trail in search of a red screech owl and raccoons. Sadly, neither the owl or the raccoon presented themselves to us. We did see some wood ducks flying off in a distance and we stumbled across a bunch of feathers on the ground. Our only thought was that a raptor must have gotten a female wood duck. The feathers were very pretty and I couldn't resist taking a couple home with me for my feather collection.
We left that area and moved on to one of the boat launch sites where we parked and sat on a rock to enjoy lunch while overlooking the water. We chatted and enjoyed the scenery as we ate and when we finished, we proceeded to a nesting box the trees swallows were using. We must have parked there for roughly 20-30 minutes and enjoyed watching the beautiful metallic blue/white birds as they landed on the box, took off and had arguments with each other. There were two that clearly looked like an old married couple as they would sit quietly, then bicker back and forth. This activity was repeated many times as we watched and photographed.
While we were in that area we could also see a very distant bald eagle nest and the eagle was sitting just above the nest and keeping an eye on whatever was going on inside the nest. We even got to see the other eagle fly in and take over the duty while the one who was previously sitting there left. In addition to seeing the two adult eagles, we also witnessed an osprey flying nearby and an immature bald eagle.
Eventually we decided to walk the trails and as we were returning from the one trail that wound up being water blocked, Justin found this cute frog sunning himself in the brush. We all couldn't resist grabbing a few shots of this cutie! Honestly, I think he was my favorite find of the day! When we finished that trail, we headed into the trail on the other side of the parking lot. We didn't find too much in there: small birds, lots of turtles and two snakes. We tried hard to get pics of the snakes, but they were both in very bad spots. The best opportunity we had in there was an extremely distant bald eagle who was hovering over the water. We watched it hover like a kestrel then drop to the water and come back up with empty talons. It circled around, then went back into the hovering position. Eventually it dipped down again and came back up with a meal. Surprisingly, a duck. We think a wood duck, but it was so hard to tell as the activity happened way to far away for decent photo's.
The day was really awesome! The sun shined so brightly and temps hit 70! It was a really fun day out with friends.
Enjoy the adorable frog we all couldn't resist photographing!